My wife is exceedingly social. Everywhere we go another lengthy conversation is launched, and I’m left standing nearby with a charley-horse smile, and “Who the hell are these people?” dancing in my head. Whenever she runs to the store “real quick” for a gallon of milk or whatever, it’s not unusual for her to be gone for an hour or more. It feels like she knows everybody.
I, on the other hand, don’t know anyone. I can secure a gallon of milk so fast it’ll whip your head around. And on the rare occasion when I do bump into a person I know, I just give them the “How ya doing?” smile ‘n’ walk. I don’t mean to be rude, it just never occurs to me to hang out by the Bac-O’s, and talk for 25 minutes with a guy who might be named Glenn. Or possibly Gary.
I’ve been told that I’m intimidating, which makes me laugh. I guess there’s a thin line between intense and awkward, huh? There’s nothing intimidating going on, I’m simply ill at ease while talking with people I don’t know very well. It’s something that’s held me back in my so-called career, and also helped cause the breakup of at least one long-term relationship.
During my weakest moments, when the self-doubt is really kickin’, I curse the hand I was dealt. But I’ve been living with this weirdness for fifty years now, and don’t see any major improvements on the horizon. Oh, I can function. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a complete basket case. It’s just that my chit-chat ball never dropped, or whatever. And chit-chat seems to be what makes the world go round.
So, I’ve got that dysfunction going on. PLUS, I don’t care about the things I’m supposed to care about. I’m a suburban homeowner/dad/husband, and there are societal expectations for people like me. I don’t meet too many of them.
Golf, for instance. It ranks right above equine dentistry on my Big List of Life Passions. I’m supposed to love golf, but couldn’t give a matched pair of shits about it. So, that knocks me out of about 40% of the potential dadversations at block parties, right there. Even if I wasn’t a weirdo with no talk-ball.
I also don’t care about sports or cars, don’t have any money to invest, would gladly pay someone to mow my lawn if I could afford it, and am totally hopeless in the Mr. Fix-It category. And I don’t own any polo shirts or khaki Dockers, either. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Hell, I’m not even your standard suburban misfit. They usually have a graying ponytail, wear flip-flops all of the time, and work in the IT department at some corporation or college. That ain’t me, either. I’m an oddball among oddballs.
The only time I’ve felt somewhat part of a community was in California. Everybody on our street there worked in the entertainment industry and/or maintained a charming dependence on alcohol.
The woman next door (who had an ultra-rare translucent child), traveled around and bought knick-knacks, furniture, etc. to be used on television and movie sets. She’d get her assignment (say “1940s middle class living room”), and go to work. Pretty cool, huh?
The guy on the other side of us worked full-time for Adam Sandler, the man across the street was a carpenter for one of the big movie studios, and his next-door neighbor was a writer on King of the Hill.
The couple down at the end of the block worked in aerospace, and drank to excess. They had a lot of money, and no kids. Sometimes, when the wind would whip-up on trash day, there would be a vortex of plastic vodka bottles swirling around in the middle of the cul-de-sac, because of those two.
So, you see… I was much more at home in that crowd. It was an entire street of oddballs. It’s quite rare. Every summer we’d have block parties, just like we do here. And I had no trouble talking with any of them. I felt like I was part of the gang, and not just some freak with all the wrong interests. I didn’t like California very well, but did appreciate our neighborhood there.
In Atlanta we lived in a bohemian/hipster part of town for a while, and you might think it would be an oddball enclave, as well. But most of the people there were assholes. Go figure. There was a lot of posing going on, and manufactured eccentricities on display. I felt no connection.
Years ago, when I was in my late twenties, I was concerned about climbing the ladder at my job, and tried to “play the game.” I made an attempt at chit-chat, followed sports a little, so I could hold up my end of a conversation, and just generally tried to blend in with the cool kids. It was an awful week and a half. I felt like a whore, and was as miserable as I’d been during Junior High School. For many of the same reasons…
So, screw it. I’m old now, and long ago adopted an attitude of take it or leave it. I’m not overly concerned about the way I’m perceived anymore. When I was younger, I painted this stance as heroic in my mind: I march to my own drum… I don’t need the approval of others… I have a low tolerance for bullshit… etc.
But, I’m not taking some lofty stand here. Let’s be honest. If I were given the choice, I’d be more social — like my wife — and be an active part of the community. I have no real say in the matter, so there’s nothing heroic about it. Right? I’m perceived as a strange dude, who kinda wishes he wasn’t, but can’t do much about it, so to hell with it. Pass the beer nuts.
And that’s my Monday confessional, on Tuesday. Do you have anything you’d like to get off your chest? Post it in the comments section below, and use a fake name if you want. It’s all good.
I’ll be back tomorrow, my friends.
See ya then!